- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009


In public, the Fifth Summit of the Americas reflected “euphoria,” as President Obama tried to set a new tone in U.S. diplomacy with his southern neighbors. However, behind the scenes, “dissenting views prevailed” among the 34 national leaders, a South American ambassador reported.

Odeen Ishmael, formerly the most senior Latin American diplomat in Washington, noted that the disagreements were so great that the presidents and prime ministers could not agree on a final declaration to conclude their April 17-19 summit in Trinidad. At most such summits, final communiques are routinely endorsed by all those attending.

“For the first time, the summit declaration was not signed by all the heads,” Mr. Ishmael, now Guyana’s ambassador to Venezuela, wrote in an analysis of the summit.

He noted that summit host Prime Minister Patrick Manning signed the document on behalf of the other leaders.

“And though he announced that his colleagues reached consensus with regard to the contents of the document, it was obvious that numerous dissenting views prevailed,” Mr. Ishmael said.

Mr. Ishmael noted that even before the summit convened, leftist leaders in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela “voiced open criticisms” of the draft of the final declaration.

“They vehemently objected to certain paragraphs in the document giving the [Organization of American States] the sole authority to oversee the questions of human rights and democracy in the hemisphere,” he wrote.

Disagreements also centered on how to respond to the global economic crisis.

“This was understandable, especially for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where a decline of 1 percent in the region’s gross domestic product could send 15 million people back into extreme poverty,” he said.

Some Central American leaders criticized the United States for its immigration policies for failing to deal with about 12 million illegal immigrants, and others complained about Cuba being left out of the summit. The OAS suspended Cuba in 1962 because of its communist policies, Mr. Ishmael noted.

He also expressed regret that the summit failed to even consider the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, a top agenda item at previous summits.

“It is for all purpose now buried in the graveyard of meaningful ideas that could not be sustainably developed,” Mr. Ishmael said.


Panama is set for a major political change Sunday when voters are expected to replace a leftist government with a more conservative, pro-American one, according to a former ambassador from Costa Rica.

“All signs point to a Martinelli victory,” Jaime Daremblum predicted, referring to Ricardo Martinelli, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Change Party.

Mr. Daremblum, writing in the Weekly Standard, noted that Mr. Martinelli, a supermarket tycoon, has described himself as “pro-American” and pledged to lobby the U.S. Congress to approve a free-trade agreement with Panama.

Mr. Daremblum, Costa Rica’s ambassador in Washington from 1998 to 2004, said the candidate of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party, Balbina Herrera, is trailing Mr. Martinelli by double digits in the latest public opinion polls. She is campaigning to succeed Martin Torrijos, also of her party.

Mr. Martinelli has a good record of public service as a former chairman of the Panama Canal Authority and minister of canal affairs, while the “scandal-plagued Herrera has a background in radical left-wing politics,” said Mr. Daremblum, now director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Latin American Studies in Washington.

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